Science Self-Efficacy in the Primary Classroom: Using Mixed Methods to Investigate Sources of Self-Efficacy



Self-efficacy has been shown to influence student engagement, effort and performance as well as course selection and future career choice. Extending our knowledge regarding the development of self-efficacy has important implications for educators and for those concerned about the international uptake of science careers. Previous research has identified four sources that may contribute towards self-efficacy: mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion and physiological/affective states. Very little research has been conducted within the school environment that looks at the formation of these sources and yet early school experiences have been posited to be a key factor in girls’ lack of engagement in post compulsory science education. This paper investigates children’s self-efficacy beliefs in science and reports on findings from mixed method research conducted with 182 children aged between 10 and 12 years. Classroom data were collected through focus groups, individual interviews and surveys. Findings revealed that although girls and boys held similar levels of academic performance in science, many girls underestimated their capability. The four sources of self-efficacy identified by Bandura (1997) plus self-regulation as an additional source, were evident in the children’s descriptions, with boys being more influenced by mastery experience and girls by a combination of vicarious experience and physiological/affective states. Girl’s appraisal of information appeared to operate through a heuristic process whereby girls disregarded salient information such as teacher feedback in favour of reliance on social comparison. Contextual factors were identified. Implications for science teachers are discussed.


Self-efficacy Sources of self-efficacy Science Primary school Social comparison 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Education, Arts and Social Sciences, G1-38 School of EducationUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

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